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Burning Runner: Preparing For A Juice Fast

Week 8: By hitting the restart button, T.J. hopes to detoxify his body and accelerate the loss of excess fat.

Written by: T.J. Murphy

In making the leap to adopting a vegan lifestyle, I had my eyes opened as to the deep power of food. As I mentioned at the outset of this series, I wish to use this time to explore ideas and approaches to food and fuel to lose excess weight, attain a high level of health and maximize athletic performance, training and recovery.

On September 13, I will begin one such experiment: a multi-day juice fast, living on water and juices prepared by juicing fruits and vegetables for four or five meals per day.

Why juice fast? In my reading on the subject, the following benefits can come from a dedicated juice fast:

1)   Detoxifying the body. Eliminating toxins and poisons that are inevitably consumed in our modern day environment, foods, water and air. Because the juice faster is getting nutrition from juice, the digestive system can take on deep-cleaning duties within the body.

2)   Reestablishing a relationship with clean food. If one of the reasons a person is having a hard time moving away from poor food choices, a juice fast can help make a solid break to consuming a clean, nutrient-dense diet. Once this break is made the taste and desire for poor foods—chips, greasy foods, too much red meat, soda, alcohol, you name it—should lessen, if not disappear.

3)   A juice fast can accelerate the loss of excess fat.

(Two of the books I’ve read in regard to gaining information on juice fasting are “The Juice Fasting Bible,” by Dr. Sandra Cabot and “Toxic Relief,” by Dr. Don Colbert. If you’re interested in conducting your own juice fast, I think these are two strong, easy to execute programs).

Preparing For The Juice Fast

By having taken up a vegan diet a month ago—and ridding myself of a coffee habit—I’ve already begun preparing for a juice fast.  Achieving success in a juice fast is clearly linked to preparing properly for it.

The first essential pre-juice-fast task is consulting with your physician to make sure that conducting a fast is OK.  Without a green light from you doctor, juice fasting is not recommended. This is especially critical if you have any severe health concerns.

At least one week before the fast it’s time to start preparing for it by tapering your diet. Starting cutting down on processed carbs, sugars, starches and greasy foods. Drink lots and lots of filtered water. Cut down and cut out coffee and black teas. Cut down and cut out alcohol. Shift to a liver-friendly diet, rich in organic fruits and vegetables, brown rice, brown rice pasta, brown rice bread and beans. Drink plenty of herbal and detox teas. Cut down and cut out meat, fish and dairy.

From my reading, the idea behind the pre-juice-fast taper is two-fold: one, to lessen the shock of shifting to juice and only juice and two, to power-up the liver with nutrients from “liver-friendly” foods so that your liver will be prepared for the central task of a juice fast—detoxifying the body and eliminating toxic fat stores.

Beginning on September 13, I’ll report daily on the fast—and how it affects my half-marathon training–here on


In addition to becoming a believer in the power of a clean diet, I’ve also become a believer in the power of a core strength-training program for runners. Again, I owe this awakening to working with a qualified personal trainer—Frank Alvarez from 24-hour Fitness— who introduced me to the right brand of exercises and made sure I performed them correctly.

In working on core strength two times per week, I’ve noticed some simple yet interesting changes. For example, when I run I’m clearly running with better posture and getting more power from my glutes. This is an interesting development and it’s in sync with a lot of the thinking flowing from research and coaches who suggest that the best way to avoid knee pain is to strengthen the hips. As someone who has had every common running-related ailment in the book—runner’s knee, iliotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendon problems, arch pain, piriformous sciatica—the idea of paying more attention to the strength and balance of the hip muscles as opposed to strictly worrying about the muscles, for example, that surround the knee, seems absolutely brilliant (prompting me to scold myself for not looking into this before). Like anything, I’m sure this isn’t a magic cure for everything, but I’m now a true believer that core bodywork is worth every minute and penny you put into it.

On the running front, the training plans put together for me by McMillan Running are calibrated around helping me pursue my sub 1:30 half-marathon goal at the Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll event in early December. The long runs are up to two hours now and the key workout aimed at developing my half-marathon speed is a run that includes 30-plus minutes at “sub-threshold” pace, which coach Greg McMillan calls “steady-state” running. For me, this is about 17 seconds per mile slower than my tempo running pace and in the range of my current half-marathon race pace.

Weight Loss

August was amazing in terms of weight loss. After I converted to a vegan diet it just started burning off. As is to be expected, the rate of weight loss has slowed a great deal. This past week I measured a half-pound less than a week before. My goal is to get down to 167 for Las Vegas. I’d actually like to hit that target a few weeks before the race.  I’ve been training and recovering well so I’ve been given the green light to add some more volume to my weekly running by adding a few more minutes to my recovery runs. Ultimately, fat loss is a bit of a numbers game: calories burned versus calories consumed.  Of course, training through a juice fast will likely give me a bit of a bump.


T.J. Murphy is a contributing editor to Competitor and the Editorial Director of Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines. Previous installments of his Burning Runner column can be read here. He can be reached by e-mail at